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Behind the headlines: Using information about general practices

19 November 2014

Yesterday’s publication of first our ‘intelligent monitoring’ data of general practices generated a huge amount of interest from the public and from the media, with some claiming that we have stated that one in six surgeries are ‘failing’, and others criticising us for publishing this information at all.

We have published our analysis of various sources of publicly available evidence on general practices because we are an intelligence-driven, independent, open and transparent regulator.

Yes, this information will be used by our inspection teams but we want the public and providers to see for themselves how we work and how we use intelligence to inform and drive our activities.

Our inspection teams are committed to identifying good care – as outlined in the key lines of enquiry that they use on their visits and with the first two general practices to be rated as Outstanding last weekend.

Alongside this, it is only right that we prioritise our inspections on where we have the greatest concern and that the public understands this. This is what our ‘intelligent monitoring’ tool helps us to identify. We having been using intelligence in this way for hospital NHS trusts for over a year for this very reason – general practices are not alone – as it helps us to identify potential problem areas.

From this analysis and of the general practices that we have placed into bands of one to six (with one indicating highest perceived risk and six the lowest perceived risk), we have been clear that the majority are of low concern (see our press release and infographic).

Over half are in band six – that’s almost 3,800 practices across England, which is a positive indication of what their care will be like.

As well as this, we have been clear that 864 are in band one 336 are in band two. This means our analysis of the evidence on these practices give us the greatest cause for concern. However, it is not our judgement of the service.

As we have always explained, inspection is at the heart our regulatory approach and so we can only judge a service once we have carried out an inspection – i.e. when we have seen the service for ourselves.

Our inspections assess whether services provide safe, effective, caring, responsive and well-led care. Following this, we rate general practices as Outstanding, Good, Requires Improvement, or Inadequate, as we have done for the first time for general practices last Sunday, for adult social care last month, and for NHS trusts for the last eight months.

This is – and only this – is our regulatory judgement of the service.

Our ‘intelligent monitoring’ tool will no doubt evolve over time but we will continue to work with GPs, their representatives and patient-focused organisations – including the Royal College of General Practitioners, the British Medical Association and the Patients’ Association – in developing it and explaining how it should be interpreted and used.

Last updated:
29 May 2017